The new chairman of the National Library of Australia Council, media scion Ryan Stokes, is confident that despite the explosion of digitisation and the roll-out of the national broadband network, people will still visit the library.
''This is a phenomenal building,'' he said. ''I have great admiration for the vision of the time to build this architecture. You look at the Treasures Gallery and there is something very tangible seeing it in a physical form, having the ability to go into the reading room and access the material. I still believe it is something that a lot of people out there in the community value greatly.''
Mr Stokes said the NBN was a ''great opportunity'' for the library to provide much access to the material from its print, oral and video collections to people in remote locations.
It was Mr Stokes's first official visit to the library in his new role and he brushed off questions about media regulation and ownership from waiting reporters. ''To be honest I don't think it's appropriate that I comment on those issues outside the company viewpoint,'' he said.
But he did say newspapers had a future in Australia. ''People will read them across multiple areas and online. I am a believer in print and I believe there is still part of the community that likes to tangibly engage in print,'' he said. The 36-year-old son of Kerry Stokes has the business connections and digital savvy to assure the Library's role as bastion of the country's knowledge.
''The Library's strategic direction is already well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities of the continuation of digitisation and making that available to the public. I think we are in a very good position having spent a long period of time digitising work,'' he said.
Mr Stokes, who is expected to bring a certain elan to the role, replaced former judge James Spigelman, 30 years his senior, on July 1 for a three-year term.
Director-general of the library Anne-Marie Schwirtlich said Mr Stokes had already taken a keen interest in the institution's future. ''We've sent him an enormous amount of briefing material and he is a very keen reader of that material, he asks lots of questions and is just waiting to get into the business of the library,'' she said. ''Today we have the chance to introduce him to some of our staff and show him a bit of the work they are doing. He can have a look at the conservation laboratory, at our digitisation facilities and talk to staff and visitors in the reading room.
''Mr Stokes, with his particular interest in digital technology, understands the role ahead for cultural institutions like the National Library and the challenges we face in ensuring that our collections of today are available for future generations to enjoy.''